Question: What do those stock ratings mean anyway?
Answer: Different brokers/analysts have slightly different meaning for ratings so here are a few of them:

Strong Buy - The stock is expected to appreciate more than 20%.
Outperform - The stock is expected to outperform the market and is undervalued. Same as a Buy rating or Over Weight rating or Accumulate rating.
Market Perform - The stock is expected to perform in line with the market and is evenly valued. Same as a Hold rating or Equal Weight rating.
Underperform - The stock is expected to underperform the market and is overvalued. Same as a Sell rating or Under Weight rating.

Question: Given that the market is flat this year what is the best place for my money?
Answer: Look for balanced mutual funds that include 75 percent large or mid-cap stocks and 25 percent cash and bonds. Avoid emerging markets or
internet funds and ETFs. After fees are subtracted there will not be much growth. If you trade stocks consider old tech, industrial or utility stocks
such as INTC, CSCO, GE, EXC that are stable and pay at least a 3 percent dividend.

Question: What is the max contribution for a Roth IRA?
Answer: The maximum Roth IRA contribution for 2013 is $5500 per individual as long as your income is no more than $112,000 or $178,000 if married filing jointly. Add $1,000 to the maximum if you are over 50.

Question: Should I sell or hold stocks/mutual funds now that the market has peaked?
Answer: At this point continue to contribute to the same mutual funds and hold on to stocks of companies that you believe can continue to grow even if at a slower pace. Sell stocks for companies that have reached beyond 2 year highs unless their growth has continued. Keep contributing so that your money will continue to grow since you will be contributing during market peaks and valleys. It all evens out.

Question: What on-line brokerage should I go with, and how much money do I need to start investing?
Answer: Scottrade is a good on-line brokerage. You can buy as little or as many shares of a stock for only 7 dollars per order. Our recommendation is to start with 2000 dollars, that is extra cash you can afford to lose. Then pick a few stocks in different sectors. Choose at least one dividend bearing stock in private equity, utilities, or freight/shipping and maybe a tech stock and a healthcare stock. some recommendations are on our stock picks page.

Question: What is an ETF?
Answer: An Exchange Traded Fund (ETF) is like a mutual fund except there are less penalties for withdrawal since it trades more like a stock, and the fund price changes while the markets are open since it represents a basket of stocks. A mutual fund is priced at market closing each day and purchases of the fund occur after the current trading day and before the next trading day. Mutual Fund managers make stock purchases based on cash inflows to the fund.

Question: Should I refinance?
Answer: You should refinance if you will be in your home at least 5 more years and if the quoted interest rates is at least 1 percent below your current rate. You should not pay a mortgage broker more than 3500 dollars in closing costs including all fees and the appraisal. Before getting the appraisal make sure the loan will go through. The appraisal fee is not refunded if the loan falls through. Do not refinance in order to take equity out of your house. Even though home equity has returned for many homeowners, the real estate market will begin to level off over the next two years and housing prices may drop a bit since the market improvements have come much too quickly for sustained growth.

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